Skillsoft Blog

Can Every Strength Become a Weakness?

By Jim Clemmer

Eons ago Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough, and fulcrum strong enough, and single-handed I can move the world.” Leveraging strengths have proven to be a powerful way for leaders to boost their effectiveness.

A few months ago my blog on “Letting go of Weaknesses is Really Hard” responded to commonly held beliefs voiced by two readers who could not let go of focusing on weaknesses. I then posted a comment in the LinkedIn Strengths-Based Leadership Development discussion group on How do you help leaders let go of focusing on their weaknesses?

This led to a lively discussion and thoughtful comments summarized in Join Our Strengths-Based Leadership Discussion Group. Since that blog post the discussion moved on to quotes from Morgan McCall’s paper, “Every Strength a Weakness and other Caveats.” Jack Zenger responded to this by drawing comparisons to a similar perspective outlined by Robert Kaiser and Robert Kaplan in, “Stop Overdoing Your Strengths.”

It’s a seductive argument and sounds logical at first. But the key difference is in the definition of a “strength.” McCall, Kaiser, and Kaplan’s definition is along the lines of a personality characteristic. And personality characteristics can clearly be overdone and become weaknesses or dangerous flaws. For example, assertiveness, confidence, or ambition can be taken too far and turn into a big problem.

Jack Zenger outlined the definition of a strength Zenger Folkman used in their original research and has been reinforced more deeply with over 10 years of research and application in helping over 50,000 leaders increase their effectiveness. Go to How do you help leaders let go of focusing on their weaknesses? to read Jack’s definition and follow the discussion.

Leverage strengths and move your world.

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Reprinted with permission from The Leader Letter, Jim Clemmer’s free e-newsletter. For almost thirty years, Jim’s 2,000 + practical leadership presentations and workshops/retreats, seven bestselling books, columns, and newsletters have been helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. His website is www.clemmergroup.com

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